Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gay romantic or forthbright modern?

Not long before I got married, my Nana (my mom's mom) passed away and I was given a small set of china that was hers. The design was Coralbel by Syracuse and it included only the basics to serve eight.  I'll be honest - I didn't really care for the design at the time but I felt compelled to keep them because they were my Nana's. However, at some point within the few years that followed, I actually developed an appreciation for the pattern and ended up proudly displaying the set in my dining room hutch. As I grew more fond of the pattern, I started keeping an eye out for additional pieces on eBay and It wasn't long before a HUGE and complete set- including everything from soup toureen, tea pot, and serving dishes down to demi-tasse cups and saucers for 12 - became available for auction on eBay. I remember thinking it was probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to score the complete set all at once like that but it was way more than I could afford. I mentioned it to my parents, drooled over it and monitored it for a week or so, then I put it out of my mind and moved on.

My parents (who I'm pretty sure had no experience with eBay at the time) had secretly decided to bid on and won the auction. They surprised me one night by handing me a printout of the announcement. To justify their insane purchase, over the next several years they gifted me portions of the set for birthdays and holidays until at last I had the entire collection in my possession. It became a running joke as I'd open my birthday present from them each year..."Hmmm...I wonder if this box is full of salad plates, soup bowls or berry bowls?"

Here are a few of the pieces from the set that I have grown to love and is an inspiration for my dining room decor:

Sugar & creamer that are usually packed away, only these never quite made it back into storage with everything else after I hosted Thanksgiving 2010. So they keep getting pushed into the back corner of my kitchen counter.

Dinner plate already on display in the dining room.
Demi-tasse cup and saucer that also remains on display on a shelf in the dining room. I need an espresso machine so I have an excuse to use these! :)
Around the same time that I had started looking online for pieces to add to my original set, I engaged in a brief but torrid affair with eBay. It was during that spell of addiction that I won! I won! purchased  two vintage magazine ads promoting this Syracuse Coralbel china pattern. I think the copy in the ads is kind of humorous, and clearly from a different era:

One says: "Deft Touch of Tomorrow...Coralbel Pattern, A Restrained Modern. . . Syracuse China weaves a thread of vitality and freshness in the rich tapestry of poised and confident living. Onondaga Pottery Company, Syracuse, N.Y." 

The other says: "Flair for simple beauty... Whether you're a gay romantic, or a forthbright modern, today's flair for simple beauty is changing your world. These two popular Syracuse China patterns reflect this trend in strikingly different ways. Coralbel and platinum bright with an abstract simplicity that mirrors the new and dramatic. In a 5-piece place setting for only $9.75. West of the Rockies $10.75."

Because of the odd sizes of the ads it wasn't easy to find two relatively similar frames that fit them. I was too cheap to buy new frames, so I was determined to do the best with what I could find second-hand. Eventually I found two inexpensive yard sale frames that would accomodate the ads; I painted them a cream color and gave them a distressed look with a dark brown rub. Then to make them "fit," I mounted the ads on dark brown craft paper in lieu of a proper matte. From the front, they didn't look toooo bad, considering I probably paid a total of $3 to frame them.

The one to the left shows at the bottom of the page that it came from a June, 1947 issue of Better Homes & Gardens. The other one is supposedly from an October, 1953 issue of House & Garden - at least that's what the eBay seller said.
So that is how the framed ads hung next to the china on display for a few years. Unfortunately, the frames barely functioned because neither one had a proper backing. As a result, the ads were often slipping, crooked, and practically falling out. Despite my best efforts to salvage the frames (with string, paperboard and masking tape), I had to give up and take them down.

This is one of the framed ads from the back - my feeble attempt to make it work! (Unfortunately duck tape and WD-40 would not have done the trick either.)
When we moved almost 5 years ago, the ads in their makeshift frames and sorry state never got unpacked. I've had good intentions. Two years ago for Christmas I asked for and recieved money from my parents to frame the ads properly, but I never actually got around to doing it.  Finally, due to my newly painted dining room walls and the motivating factor of baby-on-the-way nesting instinct, I decided it is time to actually get them reframed and on the wall.

Being the cheapskate thrify shopper that I am, even though I received gift money towards professional framing, I have continued to keep my eyes open for frames at yard sales and thrift shops. In a previous post I shared how I bought these two Thomasville frames for $4 a piece at The Blessing Barn, with my ads in mind.

So I decided I would try using these frames before jumping the gun on going everything-brand-new. Because the wood tone is too dark and cherry compared to the other current frames and future shelving in the dining room, I thought they would only potenially work if they looked good painted. Besides, they had quite a few scratches and dings that I'd need to cover up.

Here you can better see the texture/design of the frames I'm trying to use, and the wood tone compared to the other lighter, warmer-toned frames in the room.

When I had put together my frame/plate wall in the dining room, I painted a few other really dark frames the same Linen White color of the room's trim. My plan was to paint these frames that same color:

In the meantime, I took the ads, frames and a paint chip for my dining room wall color to my closest Michael's craft store framing department to pick out mattes. I decided on custom green mattes to bring out the green in the china pattern and to add a little pop of color to the room. Turns out the mattes alone would cost a little over $50. What a coinkidink that the $50 mattes plus the $4 thrift shop frames brought me just within my $60 "budget" from the gift money I'd received towards framing these!

Less than a week later I was surprised to get the call that my mattes were ready for pickup. I was so impatient to get them but that ended up being a crazy busy week full of other priorities and I hadn't even painted the frames yet. Finally, almost another week later I got everything out to paint the frames and I started having second thoughts. Maybe I should just wait and see how the prints and mattes look in the wood tone first because once I paint, there's no turning back. Besides, none of the other frames or shelving would even be on the same wall so it would be harder to tell the difference in wood tone. But then I was reminded again of the scratches. There were quite a few and they were pretty noticeable.

Here are a few of the scratches on one.

This was one of the most noticeable scratches on another. (Of course my sucky camera won't focus.)
Somehow I remembered a possible remedy I had heard or read about somewhere for reparing scratched wood - rubbing on brown shoe polish! I figured it was worth a shot.

So I whipped out my brown shoe polish and the old sock I keep with it. I started rubbing it into the scratches, and sure enough it helped a lot. They didn't completely disappear but were barely noticeable.

This is the same area as the first scratch picture above, but after rubbing on some brown shoe polish. Major improvement.

This is after rubbing shoe polish into the area in the 2nd scratch photo above. Almost invisible.
So here it is the day after shoe-polish treatment and I finally had a chance to pick up the mattes from the framing store.  I put the frames, mattes and ads all together and confirmed my decision to keep them unpainted. The frames are definitely a more formal style then I would have chosen new, and I would prefer if the wood tone were a little lighter and less cherry, but they work fine. The price was right. Here they are complete:

I think I need to go back over them with the shoe polish or try one of those wood corrector pens or something. There are still a few dings and scratches to take care of.

It didn't take long to hang them up on the wall between my dining room windows. All in all I'm happy with the results and am glad to get them back up on display.

So does this make me a gay romantic or a forthbright modern?? :)

I'm wondering if I hung them a little too high?  I just didn't want people sitting on that side of the table to bump into them.  If I end up hanging curtain rods above the molding that might help to balance out the height...will see...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love these. I inherited the same china pattern from my grandma. Would love to have the vintage ads too.

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